Island Exodus



Regular reader will know that since the birth of our child Rhiannon (Nonni), and Siu Ying’s extended stay with her Mother, commuting between our Island home and her mother’s village has become a tiresome duty. In late April I agreed we should move to Toisan (Tai Shan City in Mandarin), and find a way to live as three people in a normal family again.


To this end I spoke with Uncle Sam on several occasions, and he was very happy to take over the Island home, which is actually destined to be our Marina company office anyway. Therefore during a visit to Siu Ying, we looked at a couple of apartments in Toisan, and nothing was quite right. One needed gutting and starting from scratch, whilst another was very fine, too expensive, and a taxi ride away from the facilities we were looking for. It was priced at Y1K (1, 000 RMB) per month, which is very expensive in these parts, although very much cheaper than the equivalent in Foshan at Y2.8K. I left this with my wife to sort out via her local connections, knowing the whole family would become involved – Here is China! I left her with instructions that she had one calendar month to sort out a new gaff, or we would take the expensive one mentioned above.


Ten days later Siu Ying called to say her second brother Yee Lo had been to see a gaff that he thought was ideal, and half the former asking price, at Y500 per month. Therefore we arranged to see the place in a few days time = early May. I made the trip down and waited for Siu Ying as usual at the street bar near Toisan Number 2 Bus Station. She rang to say something about her Mother, and worried if I would be ok. I told her no problem, as I was drinking ice-cold beers, and would continue to do so until she rocked-up.


I was at the bottom of bottle number 3 when she finally arrived, with Nonni and her Mother in tow. I had fancied settling in for the duration, but upon arrival she paid my tab and we were off to view the new gaff immediately. Oh Well!


The new place turned out to be half a mile down the road, and virtually opposite Toisan Number 1 bus station – well that is very convenient. First tick already and we haven’t even crossed the road yet! I already knew this gaff would be on the 5th floor, that there was no lift - and had accepted this as fact. Living a life of sedentary persuasion, and basically stuck in front of a computer screen all day long, I reasoned that the exercise would do me good. Therefore this is not an ‘X’, just something I will have to get my head around, knowing it is also very good for my bodily health and much needed actually!


The block is accessed through a secure gateway, and the first four floors have two apartments each. Arriving at floor 4.5, we are confronted with a very secure door, which in turn leads to our apartment and the roof. Therefore the roof is private also = tick!


Finally reaching the 5th floor proper, we are greeted with a shoe stand outside the door, and one of the red faced Buddha’s on top who is renowned for protecting property and money – he’s the one you see at most business locations. I give him a wink as our agent unlocks the main door.


This place is great! I love it already, and so does Siu Ying. The door opens directly into the living room, which measures 24 feet long by 18 feet wide; with a balcony in one corner (Which I would have preferred to be set along the back wall = half a ‘x’). The main bedroom is a very large suite comprising large bedroom with fitted wardrobes and cupboards, private balcony, and a bathroom with western WC … and a real bath! I am not a shower person at all, so wallowing for hours in a bath is my version of luxury – especially on those few cold winter nights we experience in this part of China. 10 ticks already!


Well, 9 tick’s actually, because it hasn’t got a water heater yet. Opps – make that 8 ticks’s, as the recent re-plumbing job has been carried out on the surface using modern white plastic pipe, and no cold water tap for the bath. Easily sorted here for a little money = no problem, if a tad unsightly.


There are two other double bedrooms located directly off the living room, both with fitted cupboards/wardrobes, and one has a fancy contraption for opening and closing mosquito nest attached very securely to the ceiling. This will become my new office, whilst the other will be for Nonni.


Left of the entrance leads into a reasonably sized dining room, which has a micro-office to the window wall. This is actually a separate room that is half the size of a cubicle of modern computer companies, but I will try it to see it it works, as the layout is actually excellent. The kitchen lies straight through the diner, with a door (Good for when incinerating things for guest’s culinary enjoyment), and comes with a double sink, hob and extractor above, fitted units to base and walls, sexy black/metallic granite worktops, and is a foot short of being perfect. I’m giving this around 7 or 8 out of ten!


Left of the kitchen is a washroom of twice the size (Durrrh!)? This features modern double sinks and a wall length mirror + has a washing machine similar to our own supplied free. There are loads of taps and electric sockets in here, so doing what we want to is not a problem. You could probably hold a ‘Foam Party’ in here … now there’s an idea (My last was in San Antonio, Ibiza circa 1997). Back to the Kitchen, and to the right of the door is a small toilet entranced via one set of half-doors. It contains a corner washbasin affront the door, and a Chinese-Trap. Siu Ying is very happy, whilst I view it askance.


We then head outside again and up to the roof. At the top of the stairs are two rooms that modern British architects would consider to be ample double bedrooms. I could swing a cat in both of them, but they are locked and full of the landlord’s rubbish. Then the stairs actually go up and finish with a landing … that I would call the space beneath the stairs – except it is at the top of them. Your suggestions appreciated : -)


OK, I’m going for ‘Open-plan box room’, as it actually is that large. Then we find the roof is actually the roof of the whole building, and has taps and some seriously strong iron box sections at either side. I can really see some party times up here, and the immediate view is of a stand of tall bamboo. Kosher.


We all like this gaff, including Rhiannon, who hasn’t cried once yet! I’m still deliberating whether this is in the 80%’s or 90%’s, when I return below, and notice properly that all the common floor are wood = the click and lock stuff. Cool! Obviously be kitchen complex, balconies and bathrooms are tiled, but this edges me onto the 90%’s immediately.


However, I reserve the right to say yes or no until I see what the local streets have to offer – this being the main problem with the expensive gaff mentioned above. So, the main bus station is 1-minute away across the main road. I can’t hear this from the apartment. There is a massage parlour before I reach this main road, and upon doing so, there are several shops selling beers and cigarettes. Just up the road and right are two Chinese supermarkets, and just behind them is a massive wet market. Another 100 yards beyond them is a Bank (ICBC) which accepts my personal visa card with no problems, every time! China Telecom is next door, and the Police station I need to use for registering is in the other direction and 2-minutes walk from the entrance to our alley. Then there are an array of street-bars immediately left of the alley and opposite + several large shops that sell ‘Boy things’ like: tools, plumbing, and electrical items. I conclude from this whistle-stop tour, that everything we will need for daily life is within about 2-minutes walk of our apartment … and that is what I call very convenient!


The three girls are also in agreement, so a pay Y200 holding deposit on the spot, with a time set for signing contracts to be around the last week of May.  The rent is fixed at Y500 per month, and I have to pay a deposit of only Y800, returnable when we leave. Cool, and job done! Sometimes you need to trust your wife, as was the case here; and I am now firmly committed to our move in a couple of week’s time.


During the interim period I have much work to cover, which I will briefly detail below. I also have a contract signing for the new gaff vaguely set for 21st May – and it isn’t long before Siu Ying rings me to say she has already sorted out some Toisan removal people, and they are ready to go as soon as we are, and all for Y550 total. Fantastic!


Clearing Out

I reckoned I have a little over 2-weeks to sort out our Island stuff and move out. However, I have absolutely no intension of ending-up as we did last time when leaving Foshan. Serendipity is always a close companion in my life, and this time she laid traps for me re business and social engagements + the regular renewal of my Chinese visa … which ultimately meant that I was not available to do much for the last week of tenure on the Island. Now, Dr. Cunning of Cunning University once showed me how to avoid such hassle-some situations by ‘Planning Ahead’. I dug out my notes, and sure enough, I immediately realised that in order to avoid a repeat of the fiasco that heralded our departure from Foshan, I would actually have to adapt my personal calendar to fit in with the ‘space-time co-ordinates’ of our proposed move and the itinerary of the removal people.


Is Your Mind Right?

I once had the misfortune to work under the most ineffectual and power-crazed of individuals, who knew absolutely nothing about what he was doing, but whatever he stated was law – or you’re sacked. I knew very much better, but kept my mouth totally shut to protect the other employees of this Michelin satellite production base.


The guys were cool, and did what was required, including winding-up ‘his lordship’ frequently; whilst I as immediate Manager enjoyed the joke on him. Total tosser! One of our forklift truck drivers was a slightly rebellious guy called Nick, although we got along fine together, and even partied after work on occasions. Anyways, Nick had this habit of swooping by, stopping, and asking “Is your mind right”, before disappearing in a cloud of spinning rubber wheels. It can be taken as a British joke, or you can actually get to know him and reason he is challenging both himself and you.


Thanks Nick; for this move 2-weeks ahead, I did stop and ask myself if my mind was right – and it wasn’t. So then I decided to shift the goalposts, as my final week spent in residency on the island would see me spending time in: Guangzhou, Foshan, Toisan, Shenzhen, and several nights in Hong Kong = I would not be there much at all. In fact I would probably not return at all if it wasn’t for Be Loi, Siu Ying’s dog … or is she my dog by now?


Therefore I fixed my packing date to be the first event of this series: “Bad-Boy’s” eldest sons wedding reception – which was scheduled for Monday next and a definite overnight in Foshan. Fortunately only half of our stuff was unpacked from the last time, although I did rationalise all the boxes following our last removal. I spent about 7-days packing stuff, and got it down pretty well – leaving out only the necessities for daily life eventually. I also made room for most of this by our living room external door = ideal for removal men to access. By the time I was due to depart of the reception in Foshan, I had virtually cleared every drawer, and all I had left were last minute things like: the computer, a wok and saucepan, a minimal amount of cutlery, and the like. Damn but I was very pleased with my work, as it was a lot of work actually!


A Week Before


Feedback tells me you enjoy when I relate the stupid things that happen in my life, so lets break from my virtually packed Island Home, and see what Serendipity and her half-sister Fate had lined up for me during the week prior to moving:


Monday, 17th May 2010

Wedding reception for “Bad-Boy’s” eldest son, location – Foshan, arrival = ETA no later than 6.30 pm.


You should be aware by now, that things either work in China, or they do not. I reasoned that to get to the wedding reception for 6.30, I would need to leave the island on the 3pm ferry. That means: 3.15 onshore; 3.20 at the bus station; perhaps 3.45 on the bus; and 4.50 into downtown Foshan. 40 minutes to find the reception venue … so that’s actually 5.30 arrival then. I decide to put the entire plan back by 1-hour.


I made the ferry fine, except for the fact that it was now raining quite heavily, so an umbrella was an essential requirement. The local Chief of Police is also on board, and he starts talking to me in Mandarin??? It actually takes me a short while to place him, and he is usually wearing a uniform with lots of badges and Bath Stars on it. A fellow standing nearby pulls out his mobile phone, and moments later offers me a single word translation “ Passyport”. Ah Hah! He is concerned that I may forget to obtain my new visa and register. I show him my Temporary Certificate of Residence, and point out my visa expiry date of 20 May. He appears satisfied, as I then inform him in Cantonese that ‘I go Hong Kong next tomorrow, then go Policey-Stationy. Yessir!’ He is only trying to help and look after my best interests, but it makes me smile in spite of the warm drizzle descending from the sky above. The single dark cloud responsible appears to be travelling in the same direction the ferry is, and at exactly the same speed. This is slightly annoying, or should that be amusing?


The ferry slows as we approach land again, and the cloud passes before we have finished docking. At the top of the slip road there are several motorcycle taxi’s waiting and I tell the guy where I am going and ‘bussy’ 255. He understands immediately and soon drops me at the relevant bus stop. The hot sun is now beating down and I am soon dry again. I made it here by 4.18 and the bus should arrive soon. They run every 20 minutes and I am only a couple of stops from the terminus.


At 4.45, one bus number 255 stops across the road, and before it pulls out another with the same number overtakes it. Whilst I ponder the implications of this, a third bus number 255 passes on the other side of the road. This is definitely not good, and I know I will be waiting here a fair while longer. Sure enough, it is 5.15 when the bus finally arrives at the stop, and a lot of people get on. I’ve been stood there for 3 minutes shy of an hour, and some of the other passengers were waiting before I arrived at the stop. The problem I now face is that as the time approaches 6pm in Foshan, so the traffic becomes increasingly congested, and time will therefore continue to slip for the rest of the journey. With increased traffic, this puts my eta back to nearer 6.30, but no problem as I already know all Chinese wedding receptions actually start at 7.30 pm, so still an hours drinking left before proceedings’ begin in earnest I conclude.


I still haven’t managed to get a final destination out of Bad Boy, as Foshan is a city of some 4 Million people, and has several districts. My intuition tells me this will be Nanhai Gui Cheung, but I have no confirmation. Bad boy send me a txt message in Chinese of my destination, which I am to show to the bus driver. I wait until we hit a set of traffic lights and am just about to rise from my seat, when my mobile rings. It is Uncle Sam from Hong Kong, calling to say he will not be able to attend tonight’s function, and can I make apologies for him = my pleasure of course. However, the 15 seconds the call lasted, were enough for the lights to change, and I have to again start preparing my mobile to show the driver come the next opportunity.


Uncle is one of those people that appear to have perfected the art of ringing me at precisely the wrong moment, and he is always very accurate in this respect. Whilst this call was important, it could have come anytime over the preceding 36 hours, or a couple of minutes earlier or later. Same difference. However, I now know my next chance to approach the bus driver will come in 7-minutes time … presuming the lights are red at that road junction? Fortunately they are, and I show the disinterested driver my destination, and he points to the roof; indicating I should listen out for the announcement on the bus tannoy system. Well it is in Mandarin and Cantonese, but is turned down so low that I can’t actually hear it because another nearby passenger is shouting into her phone … continuously. What on earth do females find to talk about for so long? She is actually at it for over 1-hour!  She’s actually droning on in Mandarin as well, so I only pick up stuff about family and … some sort of shop? She is seriously annoying all the same, and I am not alone of passengers giving her stares of increasing hatred. However, she battles blithely on and is totally unaware of the havoc her incessant yakking is having upon everyone else on board. I notice a couple of people adding earpieces and turning their personal music up to the highest setting.


Meanwhile we enter Foshan city proper, and people continue to board the bus. The girl on the phone starts shouting louder because everyone aboard is having to speak loader to overcome the sound of her monologue. Hardly anyone gets off, and there must be 30 people standing. The guy directly behind me gets a business call, and he also has to shout to be heard by the caller. I can’t hear the tannoy at all now, but have taken to studying every bus stop and reading the characters. So far none of them look remotely like the address given in the text message, but I do not worry. Therefore when Bad Boy calls to ask me where I am? I conclude the time now must be 6.30. Correct, and I can’t see anything out of the left side of the bus at all, as this is masked completely by the thronging crowds aboard, whom sway precariously at times. Undaunted, I reply that from my seat, I conclude I am now in Nanhai Gui Cheung, and going around the bit that will become the new metro station. The bus appears to be doing some sort of ‘W’ shape, with loops and turns that come close at times to retracing where we were 5-minutes ago. He ends the call by stating that he has to sort out the wedding cake, as there is a problem with the supplier. Oppps! If I have a problem I should ring So San. Great!


I do another 15 minutes of bus, and conclude that whilst my inbuilt ‘Boy-mental-map’, knows roughly where I am, I actually do not know the present area at all – and we are headed out of town!  Fortunately the thronging masses have thinned slightly and I can now see all the sides of the bus and out of the windows opposite. I am looking for the customary list of all stops that all city buses show on the inside just below the ceiling somewhere. Correction: all excepting this particular bus. Oh Well! The driver occasionally looks me askance, which could indicate I am still ok; or could mean I should have got off half an hour ago. What with the stupid girl and her mobile I really don’t have much in reserve any more. I could do with a long, cold beer and a couple of ciggies - Oh, and she is still yakking away as I write … that’s coming up to 1.45-hours now, and we all hope and pray her battery dies soon!


I decide that worry is overcoming me, as we are definitely headed into the wilds of non-populated areas, so give So San a call. No reply. I then call Bad Boy = no reply. I decide to stick with it and stay on the bus, still checking every bus stop for any characters that remotely resemble those of my text message. Then Bad Boy calls back and asks why I did not call So San instead? I say I did, but this appears to pass by without connection. He wants to know where I am now? I’ve had this one before you know, and on a bus where I was somewhere I had no comprehension about. Now to me, if you ask a stupid question, you are going to get a stupid reply. Fair’s fair so they say. I inform him that Nanhai Gui Cheung is 15 minutes behind me, and that we are now going along a road that has a restaurant on it. He tells me to get off the bus immediately. I do so, and find the bus itinerary conveniently placed on the outside … which has the characters for my destination as being 3 from the end of this route. I think I am at stop number 7 from the end of the trail ... Good call!


I follow the bus without a hope of re-boarding again, but just knowing it is actually headed in the right direction. Then a second bus number 255 passes me, having virtually caught up with the first one … and these run at 30-minute intervals. Hey-ho! It’s one of those trips then! I watch both turn left at the next set of traffic lights, and hail a cab quite easily. I show him my text destination, after speaking it also. He presumed I was speaking Mandarin (Of course), and then we chat in Cantonese as we travel the half-mile to my destination – catching up with my bus as it departs the stop we pull into.


My dear friend Bad Boy is waiting for me as we pull in, and after swapping greetings and apologies, he escorts me into the main hall through the back entrance. I am seated at table number 3 = the top table is for the wedding party, and second for the Groom’s family and friends. The third table is for honoured guests, so I try to behave accordingly – with much success.


As in the west the other side of the central way is given over to the Brides family, and then honoured guests and friends in reciprocal order and depth of tables and relativity. There are about 40 tables, meaning four or five hundred people. The main screen is displaying wedding photos and videos that cost a bomb, backed by well chosen music. I am officially introduced to the other members of our table; many of whom I already know quite well, plus a couple of new faces. One turns out to be the ex-Principle of Sun Yat Sen University of Zhong Shan – one of China’s most pre-eminent Universities, and definitely of the top tier; and probably also because of this mans tenure are leader. The others I have not met before are either Professors of Sun Yat Sen University, or high-ranking government officials from Guangzhou and Hainan Island. The boy is livin’ it large tonight then! Damn me, but I appear to have missed the pre-reception drinks, so we have to endure the wedding photo’s and Chinese Tea, before getting down to the real business of this evening – toasting the happy couple; copiously!


 So San and his crew are also at this table, and we engage in polite chit-chat before he moves on and one of his “Sparky’s (Bright lights), who’s name I never can remember “, engages me in intriguing, if slightly irrelevant dialogue.  I work out he has a pass to drink tonight, and mark his card already.


You could guess already that I am the only smoker at this particular table, and probably the only alcoholic also. Bad Boy and I have probably only known each other for less than a year, but we have a lot in common. It is my honour to be invited to this special occasion, and so I am on my very best of behaviour when introduced to his long-suffering wife, and she is self-assured enough to know not to probe me about what we get up to when she is not around. Oh, and in case you wondered, he is also about 10 years older than me … which I find highly encouraging!


Some of the most important people are late – and this is a Chinese wedding tradition by the way = so done on purpose. Mainly this consists of the Brides family and closest friends. Bad Boy tells me that there is a delay, and he reckons things will be underway around 8pm. They have this thing that is similar in many ways to a western church wedding, where the happy couple do not appear at their banquet before all guests are seated (The important ones at least). Also bear in mind that this will be day three of a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, and they will already have done a lunchtime session before retiring for a few hours respite. After this evening’s gig, they will continue in private; but tonight represents the public highlight of the wedding.


Meanwhile Bad Boy introduces me to his Number 3 son, who is a little shy and very nice. He would be called ‘Sam Lo’ except he is the youngest of the three brothers, so inherits the alternative title ‘Si Lo’, meaning little or smallest brother.  His English is quite competent, but he appears to afraid of making a mistake to speak properly to me – what a waste, although I do coax some engagement out of him. His best friend, who is theoretically on another table, is a joy by comparison, and the first person I find all night (Bad Boy excepted), who like a smoke and drink. We get on very well, to the point of arranging to meet on another occasion to take the night forwards. Unlike western wedding receptions, this one will wrap up within a couple of hours, and there will be a small pool of drinkers left, who won’t be in any fit state to continue for very long.


The lights dim, drums roll (Really!), and the young couple appear at the head of the large Hall. She is resplendent a western style white wedding gown, with full petticoats, train, and young cherubs to carry it; whilst he is sporting a western suit and tie. There are some serious video cameramen recording every step and glance, whilst other photographers snap shots at will. They are heralded down the central walkway by these recordists, whilst the Brides side of the walk is occupied by perhaps 20 beautiful girls (Matrons of Honour), and the Grooms side by a corresponding number of ‘Likely Lads’.


I have described other Chinese wedding before, so will not bore you with the intimate details of this one – just expound upon some highlights. They do the ‘George Best champagne thing with multiple-stacked goblets, cut the cake, pose for this and that. There are a couple of small speeches, of which as Father of the Groom, Bad Boy’s is the most important. It is short, and he introduces the big boss of Sun Yat Sen University to the crowds – the ultimate honoured guest. Then he introduces only one more person = me! WTF! I stand, bow and applaud as seems fitting, and wonder why I should ever be so important?


Regular readers of this column will note my missives regarding China’s head-long rush towards westernisation with mixed blessings and perhaps some dismay. What can I say? As I twirled around and waved to the crowds around, I realised that I was the only person present wearing traditional Chinese costume – everybody else was wearing western clothes. Now that’s what I call ‘Cultural Exchange’.


Needless to say, the fine presentations soon gave way to some of the finest food I have ever tasted, and to continuous toasts of fine wine, beer, and rice-wine. On this occasion the Groom was actually drinking neat spirit (Often water or diluted), and was well on his way by the time we crossed glasses. By comparison, his beautiful Bride came just after sporting special Tea, properties of which include health, happiness, longevity; and a pre-hang-over cure. Spot-on already”!


Having just drunk at least 40 shots of rice wine in about 20 minutes, it is no wonder the Bride and Groom departed post-haste. Most tables emptied immediately after, but I was of a mind to stay a while … well, I had not fixed any digs for the night yet, and it was still young. Sometimes the younger ones head for a club or Karaoke, but on this night we had Bad Boy’s elder brother adopting me. He was well-wrecked before coming to our table, and then toasting me with a whole glass of this rice-wine – or insanity fluid – a liquid substance I would consider worthy of clearing badly blocked drains with! Si Lo and his friend quickly gave up, and so Uncle decided to have a very deep conversation with me in whatever language he was capable of uttering at the time? Then his daughter (Actually his sons’ wife) rocked-up, and she was not impressed with either of us, although she did eventually work out that I wasn’t wrecked, and her ‘Father’ was. Badly so, and she couldn’t carry him out as he was a big lad - so I did. Well, job done and handed over to staff and the taxi driver, so I rejoin the fray, only to find everyone is drunk. I’m not actually, and indulge for a while before heading for the door to find a take-away, and a bed for the night in Downtown Foshan.


Miracles do happen!


I go outside and jump into a waiting cab, in the middle of nowhere. I tell the driver where to go in local Cantonese, and he understands me immediately. It would appear that no less than 30-seconds later I am back in Foshan, and dumped outside the hotel I wanted to use tonight. I get a room with no hassle for Y90 (I only need to crash here), and head for the streets without bothering to inspect the room = well, a rooms a room.


I first try the Moslem nosh place just around the corner, only to find the actual owner is there, and he likes me. He is a young Indian guy who has lived on these streets for 8-years … and we never, ever met before. I’m not quite with this, as I have walked these same streets for 6-years – but what the hell. I ask him for a Chinese ‘ham-bo-ba’, which I know they sell, and get delivered free of charge, a round pot with curried fish soup. I conclude that the polystyrene tub is round, so something must have got lost in translation between British English and Indian English. Hamburgers are also round ; -)


This stuff is excellent, and well spicy. I make a note to try it again … when I want to eat it. Meanwhile, I need a hamburger and chips, and I need it now! I look to KFC at 11.30 at night – which should be closed already. Whao! They have just gone 24-hours, and I fill my boots with: 2 x large fries, a zinger burger, one of their dodgy curry wraps, and a large Pepsi. I order some nuggets for an aside, but this comes with some sort of sweet fruit sauce, and not the chillie one I was expecting. I decide to dunk them in the suspicious curry/chillie mix of the kebablette thingymagig. Back in Blighty this would be a Doner Kebab moment, but this does the trick in modern China.


I then head off to see the girls at my favourite ‘Foot-washy’. This is just across the road and right a bit. They remember me of course, and immediately find me a room and proffer drinks and eats of my liking. A Chinese girl enters, and we don’t seem to get along – basically because she only speaks Mandarin, and I don’t. The radio-controlled manageress drops by to confirm things and asks if I would prefer a ‘Special Girl’. I say ‘Yes!’ immediately, as this already isn’t really working for either of us. In case you wondered: A standard girl is basically untrained and not considered a professional (At washing feet). A Special Girl has many talents, including being very good and professional at washing feet. Now I already know what you are all thinking, and it isn’t necessarily so. ‘Personal Services’ or intimate massage are available, but they are always called anywhere in the East ‘Extra Service’.


My new girl arrives promptly, and she is a total doll. She speaks fluent Cantonese, and is from Siu Heng (Zhaoqing City), and I love her already - even though she hasn’t even brought the scented water yet. She tunes the TV to ‘Football’ channel, and then sets a bottle of my favourite - and very coldest beer down beside me. There is even a second screen set into the ceiling above. Then she starts the foot massage, and I have ordered an extra hour of back massage. The last thing I remember is floating in this lovely space: as she slides her legs, and her breasts, and her whole body around mine. Note. Nothing sexual happened at all, but this remains one of the most erotic and comforting experiences of my entire life. Her name is “Number 78”.


Boys are actually very simple creatures, and Number 78 would be marryable – given I did not already have a wife and child. Sometimes life is like this. However good as she was, this girl was no where near as good as my wife …


Well, I have no idea where the hours went to, but I remember arriving back at the hotel around 4am, totally trashed and having eaten something somewhere else en-route? Evidence of the day-glow pirate outside my hotel window convinces me this is now the next day of my life. I eventually find my phone, only to discover the time is now: 7.32am. I therefore decide that today is not happening, and I am not going to ShenZhen at all (Hate the rabid city anyways). I conclude that my only reason for going was to meet Gawie and Petro, and they did not reply positively to my planned itinerary, and no message either. Therefore today I am headed-off to see the only other woman in my life (Whom my wife approves of) = going off to see my dog!


This is great, because this plan lets me spend a day or two at home; when everybody else invading my world: excluding my wife, child and dog; thinks I am somewhere else. Cool!


At 7.47, So San calls me and asks if I would like to share Chinese Morning Tea with him. I say yes, and we meet 30 minutes later. This tea will actually be in Gaogong, and as we drive so we finally get down to discussing some important and very pressing business issues. I come away with the distinct impression that whilst he and his team remain very interested, there is no perfunctory way forwards. Well, that is unless I personally do all the legwork, business plans, and show them a business model based upon real investment returns. Given that I appear to be the only person in this stupid country capable of creative and new thinking, I have a problem with this – as these people always refuse to pay for my services … so I have decided to leave them to it, and they can take my ideas without any basis of fact or implementation, and make what they will of them. Not a lot I remain sure.


Having discussed, rather - toyed around with business initiatives for an hour or more, I am left feeling that something at a very basic level of commitment is lacking. So San drops me at the ferry point and then debarks his Nissan top of the range whatever it is with gold bits on the outside, to wait for his 90-year old Mother to cross from the island. As usual, the ferry is on the opposite bank of the river, and this in its turn confirms my commitment to having a firmer base of transportation in the near future. It appears I am invited to their morning tea, but this is actually a family affair, so I choose to ignore the half-hearted invitation, and instead choose to take the ferry homewards in order to spend this time with my dog.


Island Retreat

This island home has always reminded me of a retreat from the hectic schedules of normal life, a place of peace and tranquillity from where I can go about my personal business without the need to adjust my crazy internal body clock to the routines and demands of others. I also wonder how many of you readers can truthfully say that you have lived on an island? I don’t mean for a couple of weeks vacation, or somewhere you may have needed to work. I mean to actually live for many months on an island as your only home? It does alter how you view the world, especially when travel is restricted by weird ferry timetables. This morning I am relaxed and waiting for my hangover to begin. I am offered a lift home by a 12-year old riding a Suzuki, which I gratefully accept. He is actually a very good rider, and I have just made his day – something to tell the other kids at school.


I walk the last few yards to my gate, and am greeted by a large black and white jumping machine. At least, this is what Be Loi has turned into upon my arrival. She squeaks a lot and licks me anywhere she can. I had bought some large tins of Pedigree dog food, and add biscuits for her breakfast. Then I check her water is ok, and have a quick wash and change. The time is around 10 am, so I decide to take a wander and see if the island ‘Hair-washey’ girl is open today. As happens she is open, so I have a 1-hour hair-wash and associated massage. Be Loi hangs around and makes new friends, whilst half the locals passing by drop in to say hello. This is my first visit, and it is extremely good … and all for Y10, or a quid to you in Blighty.


I am a little surprised Be Loi remains with me the whole time, as she usually heads off and does her own thing. Obviously she has missed me, and this makes me uncomfortable thinking forwards to the imminent decision I know I must make concerning her future wellbeing. We go to the local shop just around the corner, where I buy several reels of seriously strong box type Sellotape. We then meander back to our home.


I make a coffee and fire up the pc, whilst Be Loi stays with me – usually she finds my computer work very boring, but this is an exception. I don’t actually do very much except check emails and reply as required. I plan what work I need to complete before moving, as I don’t have much internet time left now, and may be offline for a week or so in the immanent future. I also plan my immediate routine. There is no email from Gawie yet, so my decision not to head for Shenzhen (SZ) was the correct one. I must leave China Mainland on or before 20th May, which is a Thursday. Today is Tuesday the 18th, and the theory is to sign contracts on our new gaff in Toisan on Friday 21st. Then there is Be Loi to consider, and this means I need to be here immediately after Hong Kong. Siu Ying must have been reading my thoughts, because she rings just then and we chat about our plans. I know she is eager to make the new house our family home; but the vagaries of visa renewal and transport make me sceptical about signing on 21st. I offer Saturday 22nd instead, and she says ‘No Problem’! Cool, and she later confirms that the Landlady is fine with this or Sunday also.


So back to the travel logistics: I much prefer travelling by ferry, but the single ferry from Hoksan to Kowloon departs at 4pm every day. This means I probably won’t get my visa application in that night, which in turn means I am required to spend an extra and useless night in Hong Kong (HK). There are many coaches, most of which I do not have a schedule for, so my thoughts return to the ferry, but this time the one I have used often between Foshan (Shunde Port) and Kowloon. This gives me an extra night at home, and time for more packing. This appeals to me, so I pencil in my plan to leave early on Wednesday morning, returning early Friday morning to Hoksan (He Shan). I would then need to register with local Police yet again (New visa), and would have ample time to at least try. Whether they are able to process it that day is not my problem : -)


Be Loi comes for a fuss, and I look round at all the boxes and clutter still left up here. The room next door is similar, so I decide to take an easy day and do a little packing, do a little on the pc, and every time I go downstairs, to take a box with me. This works out pretty well, and I also retrieve our two larger boxes from under the stairs – one for the TV and the other for the Washer (Washing Machine). They are damp and a little musky – as this home has been very damp for months now. I decide to dump the TV box, as it has passed usefulness. The washer one is about ok, and ideal for quilts, pillows and similar – bulky items that are not particularly heavy.


By 10pm I have done great work, and there really is only a little left now. I’ve also decided that my mega suitcase is ideal to take the woks and pans, plus large and bulky breakables. Most of the boxes are double Sellotaped, and put ready by the front door. I’ve virtually cleared everything in the kitchen, and whilst some of the boxes remain open, they are packed and ready to be sealed immediately. I just don’t know my exact plans for the week-end, and need some things easily to hand – like curry powder for instance. Meanwhile the home is perfectly functional still, so I am very pleased with the current balance – and cook pork curry with rice for myself and pork steaks with rice for Be Loi. Maybe this is one lucky dog! I unplug the refrigerator, as it has frozen up again and fall asleep on the couch watching a Jet Li movie in Cantonese on the movie channel.


Wednesday 19th, and maybe the day I need to go to Hong Kong. If not today it must be tomorrow. I am up for going, but really detest the actual travelling bit intensely, whilst loving arriving. I make coffee, feed Be Loi and consider my options again. Then it starts raining and this is proving to be an extremely wet year, and so the decision is made for me – I will go tomorrow. This decided I put the final loads of washing in the machine, pack things like the rice cooker and our small oven, clear our related work surface in the dining room, and call the local shop. 5-minutes later the owner arrives with a crate of beer and a carton of cigarettes. He looks at all the boxes and we have a sort of conversation about it. He departs and I switch the fridge back on and fill it with beer. As I have mentioned before, it is actually a very good fridge, but one of the three fans isn’t working, so it doesn’t work right and stops chilling after a week or so. Repairs would cost about Y20, but I need help to contact the repair guy, and this has not been forthcoming – even from Siu Ying who sorted it out last time. I have decided to leave it behind; as I am sure Uncle will soon find someone to sort it out.


I potter around for a while, reducing what is left to pack noticeably, and during a coffee break, conclude that I should by a couple of large Chinese carriers for any last minute items. They are cheap, strong and durable, either made of a sort of plastic Hessian, or of sturdy plastic. This noted, I then check the beers and put a couple in the freezer. Upstairs I have some work to do concerning the website. I have added the ‘1 Word English’ section, updated many pages recently, and also added quite a few other new ones also. It is time to update all three sitemaps: One for Google, One for every other search engine, and one for surfers with disabilities. This takes a couple of hours, by which time the beers in the freezer are well cold, so I decide to sample one. Returning to my desk, remember to get out my Hong Kong Dollars for tomorrow, except I have less than $1 all in shrapnel. Putting it back I then finish the box and seal it.  I notice an email has arrived from my excellent webhosting company Vidahost. It is Dominic stating he has now created a new sub domain for me on a different server from the main website; and one that will run anything to do with php. I have been trying to get my new community pages operational for many weeks now, first trying a package from Elgg. This was excellent, except it basically didn’t work. Their server specifications had turned out to be ridiculous and only suitable for running on a dedicated server – and those things cost a lot of money. I had therefore binned it, and tried one that was equally as effective by Dolphin. However, this comes with some company advertising which I don’t like and find annoying. It is free, but necessitated certain database extensions, so hence the move to another server that has everything. I therefore spent the next couple of hours adjusting the settings from the admin control panel, and uploading my profile, some pictures and a short video. It works similar to Facebook, and I can probably live with it until a better solution presents itself. I will try Elgg again on this server, just in case miracles happen, as if it worked properly it would be far superior to Dolphin.


This work completed, I then upload a few pictures to my Gallery, noting that since the original move to a new server some 2-weeks ago, the Thumbnail thing isn’t working. We had this after the original installation, and I have a quick look and end up spending the rest of the evening searching through online documentation for a clue to the problem. I’m pretty sure the problem lies with ‘ImageMagick’, but I’ve had enough server side stuff for one day – so decide to play some music and chill for a while. I actually play some from the website, thus checking the links still work in the process. This is not a big problem now, but it was originally as both Ku6 and Youku had a frequent habit of changing the links often. All the music links appear fine, although I am aware some of the film ones need updating. I pull up the film page and try a couple which are still good. Then I click on the film Ip Man, one of my favourites that is based upon the true life story of Foshan’s foremost Kung Fu Master. I end up watching it and indulging in a beer too many. Ho-Hum! Much later I cook beans on toast for myself, and Be Loi enjoys a packet of beef balls with rice.


I waken around 8am feeling a tad groggy. This was definitely not part of my plan and I hope I have not already set the tone for the day? I have to be in Hong Kong before midnight, so that appears to be quite feasible. I want to be in Hong Kong before 6pm, and walking down lower Nathan Road, and this also appears quite probable. I relax and drink a lot of water. Then I work out what to feed Be Loi, for I will be gone for 2-days. My plan of buying things from the island Wet Market is out of the window, as it closes at 7.30am. I survey the pantry and find: 2 x tins of baked beans, 1 x large jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, some tomatoes, and a chilli flavour pot noodle with bits of beef. None of this is really dog food, so we go round to the local store to see what is available this morning.


I’m actually in a bit of a pickle here, as I already know the village shop doesn’t sell anything that may help me, so I need to be imaginative about Be Loi’s diet. Cracker! They have a new bunch of smoked and dried bacon hanging up above the counter. These are a bit like streaky bacon that is one inch deep, by about a foot long. They are Y10 each, which is a good price; so I buy three of them and a can of tinned fish. That should do it!


Back home I set the rice to cook in my saucepan – I really can’t do rice-cookers at all, which is why I have already packed the stupid thing. I then chop up the odd sort of bacon and set it to slow fry. As these are cooking away, I sort of get my head into gear, and a coffee works wonders. The Hoksan ferry will get me into Hong Kong a little too late, so I am headed for the Foshan Hotel, and a departure time of either 11.30 … nope, can’t make that one already … or … 1.30 = ideal. I then have to look up the ferry schedules; remember what the bus timetables are likely to be??? And make a plan. I then turn off all heat in the kitchen, and start dishing up Be Loi’s food. She really likes this stuff by the way, so I have no problems lining up two full bowls for her to eat. Cooling, I head outside and refresh her water bowl, and also fill up a large bucket so she will never go thirsty. I also shut the outside gate, thus trapping her inside … and she already knows something is amiss – little love!


Next, packing: do I need to take anything? Not sure. I decide I am bringing back copious tins of corned beef and jars of Hellman’s; so will take the rucker. Into this I empty half a carton of cigarettes, a tee-shirt, and a plastic bag (For wronkey socks). Ahha! I add some clean socks also, good boy : -)


My packing done, I then dish-up for Be Loi, as she hates warm food, and so I stir things around with my trusty 1920’s knife. Time to check the clock, as I am not very good with ‘Time’ thingymagig on the best of occasions, and as I am still well hung-over, this can’t be one of them. It’s 9.40 already – how did that happen? I doubt that I will make the 10am ferry, so the next one leaves at 10.40. Let’s see – does that work? That’s 10.55 on the shore; 11am at the bus stop; allow 20 minutes for the bus to arrive (Runs every 20 minutes); and 12.20 into Foshan, and then a 5-minute taxi ride = Foshan Hotel business centre desk (For ferry ticket) at 12.25. That works for me, except I am then hanging around the Foshan hotel for an hour. Let’s check: the next ferry leaves at 11.20 (You may now be getting the hassle of this ferry thingymagig?) That means 11.35 at the bus stop, and up to 20 minutes for a bus = 11.55. That’s got to be 1pm in Foshan and a few minutes to get a ticket = 1.10pm. That’s the one I need! Therefore I need to leave where I am now at … 11.10am, or in … 1 hours time! How did that happen? Oh yes, I had a couple of phonecalls in between, and had a shave and changed clothes. The beans on toast I ate last night appear to be working extremely well - so well in fact that even Be Loi gives me a derogatory look. I’m well impressed, but then I am a boy. I decide to have a shower as well, and it is at this point in time that the extra hot chilli sauce I mixed with my beans last evening, decides it is time to leave my personal digestive system for the world at large. This preoccupies me for the next 40 minutes with virtually no interruption, so the shower doesn’t happen due to imminent and pressing time continuum constraints – Let me explain E=MC2 regarding baked beans and boys … E = the Effluent that must be released form a body’s personal system via one  means or another. M= Mass, or the quantity of food eaten the night before + gaseous, liquious, and other solid substances that combine to form the basic elements for digestion. C2 corresponds to the amount and severity of Chilli/Curry sauce imbibed the night before – whose effects next morning are squared. Particle Physics, Boys, and Einstein have now been explained to you.


Finally over the worst of it, I check the clock to see it is now 11.05. I’m out of here! And I am within 3 minutes actually. Be Loi is very not-impressed with me, but this trip is a must do, so see you in about 48 hours sweetheart. She howls as I make my way up the road, but I did give her the last doggy chew, so that should keep her occupied for most of the day. There are two reasons I lock her inside by the way. The first is that she is used to having food for several days, and does apportion it. With the outside gates open other island dogs would eat it all within a few minutes – she is as laid-back about stuff as I am. The other reason is that she would lead me to the ferry, and not stay on the island. This would be a nightmare scenario!


I note Miss Serendipity is accompanying me again, as 5-minutes before leaving the heavens open and down comes the rain again. I mean, it is coming down in buckets, so I actually take an umbrella with me (Almost unheard of for me personally in China). Normally heavy rain in this part of the world only last for 30-minutes or so, but this stuff has set in for the day. The local Police chief passes by in his car as I walk to the ferry, and I know what is coming later. Sure enough, we are no sooner on board than he is asking me about my Residency Certificate. This time I have my ‘passeyport’ with me, so I show him my current visa, which expires at midnight tonight. I say I am going to Hong Kong right away, and will register as soon as I get back. He makes some notes, and is very happy. This time we only communicated in Cantonese, which was a lot easier on both of us. Please do not get me wrong, he is a very nice guy and this is not a Police State – he is simply concerned about me + ensuring all paperwork is correct. Could be he is up for promotion? As we finish he proffers a cigarette, which I gracefully accept. Just then the phone rings and it is Uncle Sam asking where I am. I say I am on the ferry going to Hong Kong. He replies that he is just back from Hong Kong and had been hoping we could meet. I respond by saying I will call him upon my return and we can arrange something for the coming week-end. He says that’s fine and he will bring his puppy ‘Billy’ to meet Be Loi, as the two will be sharing the same home soon.


Landing I walk up the ramp, and there are no motorcycle taxi’s again! This is about four times out of the last five – annoying. I walk to the nearest main road, which is not a direction people would normally walk, and there is little traffic. I keep walking and after a few minutes a motorcycle hoots me from across the road as he is passing by. I wave, and he appears with due haste at my side. I don’t know this one, but he understands me immediately and so we set off into the heavy rain – he ensconced in his weather-all, and me enjoying the free shower – I should have brought some soap with me and finish the job I tried before!


He wanted to take me to the central bus station (A bit of the busiest part of the main street actually), whilst I chose to over-ride him and get dropped off at a bus stop instead. My reasoning was that the coach departs the centre of town at 11.37, and takes about 3 minutes to reach this stop. The time of my arrival was 11.38, so I felt I had got it right.


Nope! I was waiting for the blue bus, as this one goes into Foshan city … and it never came. Time passes, and I consider my options; but it really is very wet everywhere just now, and this bus stop has a nice shelter overhead. At 12 o’clock a yellow coach passes me flashing his lights and tooting his horn. I wonder? Then 5-minutes later the blue bus finally arrives and I board … only to find this now goes direct to Guangzhou, and does not stop anywhere near Foshan. The other buses (All operated by the same company) are a pukey shade of metallic green, and definitely only go to Guangzhou. So does this mean that the yellow buses and the blue buses have swapped routes?


I still have it in the back of my mind the last yellow bus was actually not just touting for business, but probably recognised me and my intended destination. Hmmm?


At 12.15 a local charabanc rocks-up, and I board it in order to go to the main bus station (Not the town one), where bus 326 lives. These run every 5-minutes, but not really to the part of Foshan I want to be in. Yet, they would drop me a short taxi ride away, so this is my new chosen option. I’m still feeling like shit, so am perhaps being quite stupid about things, but we are all human and fallible at times. We arrive just as bus 326 pulls out, and no way to board it; then as I take a seat in the waiting area, the yellow bus passes outside along the main road hooting his horn. Thanks!


I am already resigned to this being ‘One of those days’! I am not wrong, as it takes exactly 12 minutes for the next 5-minutes interval bus to depart. Leaving I note the time is now 12.30, and whilst on a good day this would work, I have a growing suspicion this bus will arrive in Foshan just too late for me to make the ferry connection. I consider that I am very stupid, as I could have sorted this quite easily and much earlier by going to a different bus stop. However, it is very wet today, and I am very hung-over still.


Our route takes us passed a junction near Le Cong, and I note the Ramada Hotel off to one side. This is a proper 5***** star hotel and ideal for business people. I make a note to get a decent picture of it sometime + some information for my website. The bus then follows the access road and passes through the next major junction, stopping to pick nobody up. As it pulls out I suddenly realise that the Ramada Hotel also offers shuttle service and ferry booking for my destination. I think to rise and get off, but this opportunity to pull my schedule around has already passed. Wally!!!


Look, I am usually with these things, but I simply am not functioning at all today. I am very annoyed with myself now on two counts, and know I will miss the ferry connection, as time continues to elude me today. Therefore, having got just about every call wrong today, I try to wake up my indolent mind and focus on the task at hand properly. 1: Will I be in Hong Kong before midnight = yes. How: by stupid coach from the Foshan Hotel. Are there ‘any’ other options still open to me? No. What time does the next coach leave? = 1.30 or 2.30. Is there any way I can miss the 2.30 one = No, unless there is a major road traffic accident or coach breakdown. I doubt Lady Luck is feeling that cruel today, as all my missed timings and misjudgements are basically my own fault. I also have a whisker of a chance of still making the connection, as the charabanc connecting to Shunde usually leaves less than 90 minutes prior, and at around 80 minutes before sailing … which in turn makes my time of arrival at Foshan Hotel to be 1.40pm. I can get aboard without a ferry ticket also, so don’t need to go into the hotel … so this is a faint possibility. Otherwise, the coach will take around 3 and a half hours – 2.30pm + 3.30hrs = 7pm into Downtown Kowloon. Nightmare!


I am about to get into some serious self-berevation, before I am forced to admit to myself that I F****d-up and there is no one else to blame for my present predicament but me. I still think I am stupid, but I also have this persistent hang-over which is going nowhere, and do need some more water quite soon. The bus makes up 5-minutes out of nothing, before we lose 10 others due to roadworks. Ho-Hum!


Finally I am in Foshan, and the bus drops me off 5-minutes walk from my destination, at 1.35pm. All Foshan taxi’s this time are either full or missing. I walk it quickly and note a Shunde ferry charabanc is waiting at the far side of the car park – except it has no driver and is parked. At 1.42 I am in business reception, only to be told I am 3 minutes late, and the next ferry connection leaves at 4.30. I am not stressed and accept this, and book a seat on the 2.30 pm coach instead. You should be aware that I also do believe in fate, and sometimes you are destined to miss things for a seriously good reason … except we can never see our future. Being late this day may have saved my life for instance – but I do not know that future, only the one I personally travel.


The waiting is excruciatingly boring, but the hotel has provided seats and I continue to endure; as my mind finally starts kicking into gear for today. ‘Hello! I could have done with you around a little earlier today’ and it is then I am reminded I got drunk whilst watching Ip Man last night, and went to bed just after 2am. Thanks!


When I booked the coach ride, I was asked if I anted an aisle or window seat. I replied that I wanted one with the most legroom. This was seat 42, and there were only 8 other people on the coach. Unfortunately one was sitting in the other large seat across from mine, and seemed worldly wise Hongkongian. I’d already ballsed-up today so far, and just wanted to sleep. I have no idea who this guy was, but had the distinct impression he wanted to talk to me … a lot. Therefore I took another seat designed with Dwarves in mind, and endured what was to come – well what with the ergonomically designed seats that were fashioned for primary aged bodies, and headrests that finish at your shoulder blades, this was not going to be my gargantuan version of comfort. Having recently watched the re-run of the Shrek movies on local TV, I am beginning to consider we have a lot in common, especially regards China buses.


This coach is ok, but the scenery has changed again, and we are going the long way round of course. There is often discussion about if the future is set, or can be changed. I will argue either point of view, simply because it pleases me at the time. I owe this ability to my earliest best friend Rex, who was a bugger like that. However, I am also inclined to think that the past is not set either, as a couple of outstanding instances in my life do tend to support this hypothesis – but rather than be sectioned immediately, I’ll keep stumm and let you work it out for yourselves. And this in turn means that the present is a time of flux. Anyways, I have 2-free bottles of bus water, and have the end of a movie to watch if I am so inclined. They just leave it running nowadays and don’t bother resetting to the start of this or another movie upon departure. This one is a Kung Fu flick, and is in Cantonese and OK. We then suffer 30 minutes of bus TV advertising – not for the faint-hearted, before some stupid Chinese ‘Soap’ comes on, which is in Mandarin. I do manage a few ‘Z’s, but the excruciating discomfort of the ergonomically designed child seats easily makes this impossible. However, I have discovered that if I sit sideways with one leg under the seat in front and the other draped over the central isle, then I can actually fit my personal bulk – more or less, into this confined space. A 52 seater coach with seating for 68; and 9 passengers aboard – makes me wonder? Then I discover that by draping my shoulders over the headrest of the seat in front, I can actually avoid any contact with the atrocious lumbar support that is distorting my spine insistently and pummelling my lower back (L4 region). Ah! That’s a lot better.


I actually start to nod-off, and then Shenzhen happens. This is one of my most disliked cites in the world, and I’m not really sure why; I simply prefer to be anywhere else. Fortunately this school bus is taking the new way into Hong Kong, but travelling so slowly that even the seasons appear to be changing as we sojourn by. Waking fully I realise the roadside plants have changed, and I am being very unfair. The new crossing is a doddle, but has changed slightly since my last visit. Somebody has rewritten the wording outside, so it doesn’t actually make sense for foreigners, and it says: “Visitors this side” and the left hand lane display’s “Chinese this side”. This actually means that entrance to Customs for Hong Kong is on the right, and entry to China Mainland is on the left – except this would actually be the exit on this side. It makes me smile. I know to go to the right, and it’s a breeze. I picked-up on the disembarkation announcement that we needed to meet at trap 19 on the other side – strange as I wasn’t really listening; but it was in Cantonese, so lodged somewhere within my awakening brain.


Having waltzed through Customs, I find trap 19, then stop outside for a smoke. I note the coach drivers are doing the same nearby. A staff rushes up to me and checks my sticker, then confirms I want to go to Kowloon Downtown. I confirm, and she realises I know what I am doing. Finally I seem to have gotten my act together, and a shame I wasn’t this many hours earlier. I finish my cigarette and deposit the butt in the conveniently placed receptacle on the other side of the walkway. Our driver does the same and follows me aboard. As we depart I take any seat, and check my phone before I get 20 text messages from the Hong Kong service providers – telling me in ‘Complicated (Traditional) Chinese’, that I can now use their network. Thanks guys, I already now this. 20 deletions later and I note the time is now 5.55pm, and we have about 30 minutes left to ‘Downtown’.


I am not sure where we will arrive until it happens, but consider I should be very close to the visa place. Ok, so where do I sleep tonight? Well, I really like the Best Hotel, and especially one of the Philippino housekeepers – for absolutely no reason except for the fact she has the most very interesting chest, accompanied by a very intoxicating and beautiful smile. I’m not going there! It is a little out of the way for what I need to be doing anyways, so I will try Cheung King Mansions again. And anyway, I want to ask the guy who always seems to be there, how the Guyana ski team person is doing. Or is that Guiana? It’s that one island in the Caribbean anyways…


Meanwhile the gigantic coach with micro-seating has arrived at Prince Edward, which should be the first of only two stops. However, the driver is gracious and drops people off according to their destinations along Shanghai Street, parallel to Nathan Road. I like this, and file for future reference. I also espy the commercial catering section appears to be located here, and we will come back to this tomorrow – as I have a cunning plan!


I am not sure whether to bother even going to CITS (China International Travel Service) at the bottom of Nathan Road, as I am sure they will either be closed or not accepting new applications this late in the day. I am dropped off at the last stop, which is 30 yards from a cash point (ATM) that I know works with my version of an international visa card; and this in turn is 100 yards away from CITS. I decide to draw cash first, then check CITS with no hope, but it is opposite Cheung King mansions, so worth a minute. Meanwhile I am very up for a beer and some food, so Café Fontaine, here I am coming!


Well tickle my tits till Tuesday! CITS is still open and I can apply tonight. This saves me one whole 24-hours with nothing else to do in Hong Kong. I feel Lady Luck has finally given me a kiss today; thank you Your Highness. I have everything required, and then the assistant asks me to go and stand over ‘there’. This I do, following her pointed finger. I’m not sure why I need to be “Standing over there?” but perhaps there is something new here I don’t know about. I find some brochures and maps that could be useful for other friends and visitors, and am about to take a few when I am called back to the desk. I am expecting progress, but the girl processes one query, and then asks me to ‘Stand over there’ again. Weird, but I do so … again! Some guy behind an adjacent counter says to me ‘There is no hurry’. I go back to the brochures and maps, and start choosing some; as I hate hanging around. Meanwhile my mind is clicking into the fact that this is very strange, and…


… The guy who spoke earlier, but who is also very busy behind his personal counter, calls out to me and enquires if I am ready yet? I say I think so, and go back into waiting mode looking at the literature. He then asks if I want to have my photograph taken, and I say ‘No – why?’ He then goes to talk to the girl processing my application form, and she calls me over. Wow! Things are progressing at last, because this is usually very quick.


She hands me back my photograph and then explains in 99% perfect English that the system has changed and they no longer need me to provide a photograph. Instead they take one that is digitally entered into the system, which is compatible with the visa issue people – and I need to go and do this ‘over there’ – the other guy is waiting with a camera to take my photograph, so why do I have a problem with this?


Well, the other guy was actually tapping away at his keyboard, and where you pointed to ‘over- there’ was not where the photo screen is, and I didn’t even realise it was a photo screen until a few seconds ago. What is it with all this shit? You can communicate to me in either English or Cantonese, and I will understand. Stating stupid things without relativity will only make us both annoyed … and I perceive you are actually trying to close very soon.


Ahha! So that’s what this is all about then. I’m very pleased you actually bothered to inform me. Then I note that on the distant wall is a blank sheet, which upon closer inspection turns out to be the backdrop for portrait photography. Wow! I never knew this or saw it before. Thanks guys, now we are on the same wavelength. Why didn’t you say we need to take your photograph, and tell me to get to the back wall – which is nowhere near ‘over there’!


Within a minute I am out of there, after checking my receipt and correcting the 30-day validity to 90 days … the only reason I have this visa. This is such a big bonus and I feel things are finally going my way. I go directly to the gaff across the road and am delighted when Johnson recognises me and we agree terms for the night. This time I get a proper room, but the price has now risen to Y175 per night = excellent! I book and pay for two nights, literally throw my ruck-sack in the room – and am orf (British slang for ‘off’, or whatever language our Queen speaks).


Keys in hand I board the lift and there are a couple of Germans inside. I say “Guten nacht’, and they reply to me by speaking a lot of German. Interesting? I reply to them in schoolboy German, with odd English and Cantonese words scattered about for effect – basically communicating I am British. They switch immediately into very good English, and I wonder … however, they accept my initial offerings as given, and are grateful for a little advice concerning HK, as this is their first ever visit. Eventually the lift opens I we go in differing directions – nice people though, and I stifle memories of John Cleese (Basil Faulty)’s excellent skit from Faulty Towers as I wend my way onwards.


I make Café Fountaine around 7.25 and am immediately recognised as a regular. It is raining in HK also, and not a lot is happening tonight. However, my two main objectives of this day have been dealt with, actioned accordingly, and I decide I deserve a pint. I sit an my mind waxes lyrical, and I feel the need for a ‘Dictaphone’ or similar recording device. I do have these moments quite frequently, but can never, ever replicate them when I come to write these missives. I also need a good quality camera to capture what I am rabbiting-on about, and think vaguely about investing in a new mobile telephone?


Mama espies me and hustles over for a cuddle, before we chat and catch-up. Then she is busy, so I chat to a couple of Nepali waiters in English, after first greeting them with ‘Namaste!’ I am very happy drinking draught Tsingtao, but the beer girl is new and preferring Tiger. She is cute and very … ‘nice’, so I swap later to Tiger, and it is not quite right, which is very unusual for this place. I do chat with a couple of patrons also, but basically the evening is dead but yet I stay for another round and something to eat.


I am coming to realise that whilst I have developed into a quite personable and interesting personality, I am also extremely happy to be left on my own. I would have no problems left cast adrift on a dessert island, and wonder at the theatrics of Tom Hanks in the film Castaway? Hollywood of course lol. This laid-back evening suits my mood extremely well; and as it is appears to be raining again, I order a nightcap before eventually calling it a night and returning to the hotel. I notice the local ‘Park’n’Shop’ is still open, and whilst being an intermediate sized store, it usually offers most of what I hope to buy and take back to China proper.  I go inside and buy a dozen tins of corned beef, checking they all have the stupid opening keys attached. I then buy a couple of large Hellman’s, and add some few other items to my trolley. That would be two full and large carrier bags then? Apparently so, and I remind myself to only go shopping when I am totally sober. Ho-Hum!


Entering Cheung King Mansions at around midnight, I see one of several food retailers is still open for business, and after looking at a few offerings, I decide upon a take-away of ‘sheep’s curry, rice, and chips + extra paratha’. It is very good, and as I lay my head down to sleep, my mind wanders and wonders about my girls, and especially Be Loi…


I awake every hour from 4.30 onwards, and as I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to do today (Except collect my new visa), I try and prolong going outside until midday. Johnson is still at the desk outside my room, so I cadge a mug off him and make a coffee. I actually give him a sachet as I will not drink all of my supplies this trip. He is a little made-up, and then we chatty about how well the Guinea (Guinean?) skiing team did at the recent winter Olympics. He actually enjoys this, and begins to enter a few vaguely French words into the conversation as we chat, which is fine – and I think we both agree that both of our native countries have people who are a little bit crazy – from-time-to-time.


Hanging around in cheap hotel rooms really isn’t my sort of thing, but I manage to stretch matters out until almost midday, before sheer boredom gets the better of me. Today’s plan is what?

  1. Wander around the commercial food wholesalers section I discovered yesterday.
  2. Get a ticket for Hoksan from China Ferry.
  3. Go to Café Fountaine – unless I can figure out anything else worth doing in the meanwhile?
  4. Collect my new China visa at 6pm today – my single and only reason for being here!


I decide to walk as this will use up useless time. However ten minutes later I am in ‘Yau Mai Choi’ = whatever, and I find myself walking along food wholesale equipment street. This is going to be a very long day, so I stop outside of a beautiful rest place where smoking within is banned, and so perching upon the wall outside, I light-up. I reflect that yesterday time was always behind me = a catch-up. Today time is well ahead of me, and determined to remain so. Well, I’ve made it to 12.26, and hoped it was 2.26, but that’s life I guess.


Why am I here? Well last time out an electrical retailer tried indifferently to sell me a totally crap deep-fat fryer for $HK750. I want to know what the commercial sector offers in comparison. Given I have other ventures in the fire, I am also seeking to find a supplier of quality stainless kebab rotisseries – but perhaps this is a British thing?


Given that the nearest placed, and handily placed trash bin is located over the street and far away – I consider this venue to be one of those places set-up for Police to do you for throwing your cigarette butt away – they purposely do this in HK to make revenue by the way. I stamp on my butt, and put it into my cigarette packet with great aplomb – they are watching me, I know! Sometime I promise to regale you with my views about ‘Smoking’, but these are destined not for this missive. Rising from my seat I notice a ‘White Van’ pulls away just up the street. Better luck next time guys – but shouldn’t you have a word with yourselves about what actually constitutes a crime, and what does not? They have just confirmed my suspicion that the number 1 crime in Hong Kong is ‘Tossing a cigarette butt away’. Meanwhile the government appear to condone things like: Child selling, prostitution, drugs, and theft. The only other thing they condemn wholeheartedly is drink driving – like a ‘nothing’ amount. Crazy place! This is why I always make a point of displaying where my cigarette butts finish up in Hong Kong – candid camera you know : -)


This stupidity dealt with, I proceed to browse the commercial kitchen fixtures and fittings outlets, and there is some pretty fine merchandise hereabouts. The general offerings on deep fat fryers are strictly commercial, and range in value and price. All are brushed stainless steel, and have a full range of controls. The one I like best is deep and not wide, but only does 200 degrees. Many stores offer a wider version that goes up to 300 degrees, and this one I want. Price: $HK900. Cool!


However, I am actually on the trail of an outlet that sells kebab rotisseries, and having tried a dozen stores already only to be met with blank looks, this is not happening. However, I have not crossed Shanghai Street yet and tried the other side of the road – so who knows? Entering the first worthwhile establishment I am greeted by a local who speaks very good English. I explain about the Kebab rotisserie and she understands what I am looking for … except they do not sell them and they are very difficult to find.  I browse before leaving, and have a feeling ‘something’ was lost in translation?


I walk passed the only other store worth visiting on this side of the road, before my premonition kicks in and I begin to wonder about the phrase from the last store: ‘Difficult to find’? I backtrack, as I am getting into understanding Chinese real meanings by now, and am left to wander around. They have already sussed out I am British, but immediately appear when I am drawing a visual blank. “What do you looking for?” That works for me so I try to explain in simple English what a Doner kebab rotisserie is. This takes a few minutes, before she totally understands, and then she shows me to the device facing my back. Woah! That’s it! In my defence I do say it was well hidden by other more saleable items, but it is exactly what I was after. Then she beckons the owner over, and apparently I can have one tomorrow – mains gassy, bottle gassy (options) or electric. I’m flabbergasted! Totally perfect! We swap cards and calling details and this is a done deal. I get a rough (And un-negotiated price) of $HK 4k = £350 or something, and am well made-up. And this shop is exactly next door to the last one; and know you should understand Chinese speaking properly, because I almost missed this one outlet entirely – except for a nagging doubt.


I’ve now made it to 12.47, and it is very hot and humid today. I stress about how to waste even more time, as I reckoned this bit to be worth more than a few minutes and certainly over an hour. I vaguely head for China ferry, and snap a few shots of stupid things like buses and taxi’s to support this missive and others. I pass by the rest area for non-smokers again, and spy the Jade Market is situated directly behind = rip-off place if ever there was one. Most of the products for sale are imitation and occasionally glass, but there are a few genuine rarities to be found. However, this remains un-Policed, as they appear to be only interested in smokers binning their butts in the wrong part of the rest area nearby … Cummon!


I take time to take snaps of such things as: Hong Kong minibuses and am just lining up a good shot of a couple of taxis when Anne says “Hello”! What??? Turning to my left I see Anne and Uncle Sam’s elder sister, and they are very happy to see my by chance in Hong Kong. We chat for a few moments before I am invited to lunch. Anne is probably the one girl I know who would make an excellent wife – for lazy foreigners who are into being vegetarian. Elder sister reminds me a little of Garfield, and John’s Grandmother – the one that added chilli to Thanksgiving gravy (If you ever watched that cartoon and video?) which was a hoot! This old bird eats meat, swills beer, and is generally a great person. Needless to say we get on pretty well, even if verbal communication is a tad frustrating at times. I am tempted to join them, but my Cantonese is pushing 5-years old now and not up to withstanding a whole lunchtime I am sure. The pair are so sweet, but it is not where I am bound today … as I know I have to move-on for some reason? Bidding fond farewell’s we disappear in opposite directions, and into the melee of thronging masses that is modern Hong Kong Downtown.


I am wandering to kill time again, and get a subway (British English for tunnels that pedestrians use to cross the road, but underneath it), and end up in the new Austin metro station. I study a map and realise I can use this to get very near my destination. It is all very clean, new, and air-conditioned. It appears that nobody thought to provide any seating anywhere, so my poor knees (Too many years of playing high-level squash) and back (Too many years of doing … something else!) are really beginning to suffer a lot. I start limping a little, simply due to fatigue and not being able to rest a while anywhere. Standing doesn’t really help either, and whilst bending and stretching help a little, I remain conscious of the security cameras - and their operators perhaps wondering what I am doing. I press-on regardless, and the limp gets progressively worse. Oh to simply sit down for 5-minutes! I consider the floor for a moment, before deciding to keep going. The end is nigh! I re-check the nearby map and register I have almost gotten the whole way to China Ferry by now.


The exit is one I know well, and is still being built/finished. I am on the correct pavement (Sidewalk in American) to get straight to China Ferry. The directly connecting footpath has been handily divided by temporary concrete structures that can allow two people without baggage to pass under the sheltered section; or one person without baggage to pass on the outside path. This is a tad weird then? There are no seats anywhere of course, and I think HK Tourist Board may be missing something here – perhaps I will write to them at a later date. I spy a pylon thingymagig, whose concrete base is ideal to sit upon. Done deal, as I am knackered! It actually takes me a couple of minutes to rest to a point where I can stretch my limbs and muscles, and start to feel better again. I could seriously do with some water also, but it is more expensive than petrol in modern Hong Kong, and there are no retailers hereabouts anyways – just the frontage screens of a building site.


Recovering from my ordeal, I get round to lighting-up and enjoy the carbon monoxide buzz as it hits my system. This cigarette tastes pretty good too, so as I consider moving slightly so that I can place my feet on the ground – so I am hailed by a young guy who is asking if I know where China Ferry is. Yes I do sunshine, and you are going in the wrong direction. He is not quite American by accent, so I presume he is Canadian? He also lights-up as we chat, and I offer to take him with me to buy his ferry ticket –seeing as we are both headed for the same place and I know where it is, and he doesn’t.


Whilst Hong Kong is a central hub for all travel within Southeast Asia, it does not have a central transportation hub of its own. Changing from planes to trains to ferries does require using your initiative, and is not for those who are not worldly wise. For instance, China Ferry in Kowloon is one of the busiest international passenger routes into China Mainland, yet it looks like a large shopping mall, and does not say what is actually is on the outside of the building. Internally; finding China Ferry (Which occupies all of the first and second floors) is a tad difficult, as the entrance is tucked away around the corner to your right and down some steps; then along a bit and up some escalators. It really isn’t a problem once you know where it is.


Neither of us can obtain tickets to our destinations, as it appears the whole of Hong Kong has booked to travel today and tomorrow because of ‘The Buddha’s Birthday’ holiday. For me this means 12 hours of fraught travelling instead of 2 and a half of simplicity for me, whilst my new friend considers his options and we agree that he needs the KTR light railway to Shenzhen. As 2pm beckons and we are dehydrated, I suggest sharing a taxi to my local Café Fountaine, and he eagerly accepts my local wisdom. The taxi driver doesn’t understand me when I ask to go to The Regal Kowloon Hotel, that is until I direct him in the right direction for a while, and he then says “Ah, you go to Regal Kowloon Hotel!” Yes, thank you!


My companion is into the automotive industry and appears to be: good, hot, and hassled. An ice-cold beer later and his equilibrium returns, and we have a great time talking about whatever. The beers flow and we have something to eat also. He pays out bill, which is most gracious of him, and in return I accompany him to the main railway station and see him safely onto the platform entrance. That was very interesting, and Canadians are great people! I am heading off to collect my new China visa. It is ready and waiting as usual, and I wander around for a while wondering what to do next? The time is now 6.30 pm, and whilst I could make it back to Foshan tonight, I could not reach Jiu Jiang, never mind my island home. So I let the current hotel booking stand and ponder if there is anything remotely interesting that I could do for the next few hours. Let’s see: I did all my shopping last night, and the only perfumes and toiletries I would buy they don’t sell here anymore because the agent has changed. I only ate a couple of hours ago, and have done all the tourist things long ago. I take the long way back to the bar.


Unfortunately, by this time my mind and body are completely out of sync, and so I return for another beer or three. Having eaten earlier than I would normally do so, I have a buffer that allows me to drink, yet is not enough for me to sleep. I chat with staff and other patrons, order a baguette, and try to get myself re-orientated. A very beautiful girl takes the table next to mine and immediately strike-up conversation. On any other day this would be heaven, however I am approaching being three-sheets to the wind by now, and whilst giving her my card; make my excuses and make a swift exit! Damn!


Out on the street and I look for something to do. I decide to check out the local phone shops, as I want a new mobile with: solid state = no flip, switch, turn, extend functionality. I want and excellent camera, and the ability to record voice. Memory is important also, and we are talking 4 Gigabytes or better. Apart from that I expect it to make and receive calls and txt messages – and that’s about it really, except it being as small as possible. Oh, and I do need it to have a physical wire connection to my computer, as my previous experience with Bluetooth are a load of bollocks! Meaning I need to move Folders, not one thousand individual Files … one each time!


One likely lad takes me up when I visit his emporium, and we have a very good go at it. Basically what I want is a better version of what I already have – except Nokia haven’t bothered to make this. I end up buying a smart mobile that has an excellent camera with flash, zoom, modes, and video record (8.1 Mpx), and voice recording facility. It also has a removable 8 Gb card that works with my laptop already, but only one sim card. I buy it for $HK3k, and walk out with it already speaking English. That would be just after 11pm then, as the shop was closing, but closing this sale first.


Later I rock-up at a MacDonald’s somewhere? before heading back to my gaff for the night. Outside an old girl and her elderly Mother appear determined that I should have a massage with them, and whilst the thought of a massage appeals, having sex with either or both of them is explicitly required – and definitely not on my personal agenda. Gently releasing her death-grip of my left arm, I politely retire. WTF!


I centre and realise the time is now 3am, and I have almost made it back to the hotel. Getting my sense and sensibility back, a seriously beautiful girl called ‘Victoria’ propositions me - and when I refuse, she hands me her calling-card = “Come up some time and see me”! (Which is the correct quotation). Walking away I cannot believe that I have just had 3 offers within as many hours, none of them sought nor wanted.  Back inside Cheung King Mansions the Indian guy is still open for business, so I take a samosa and a couple of other interesting looking snacks before heading to bed.


The next day happens all too soon, and I really do have a hangover … what was it I did last night. Oh yes, I bought a new phone, and spend a while trying to take a picture with it. I get a great video of my feet by chance before coming to the conclusion that Sony Ericsson’s menu system is even more fuckwitted than Nokia’s – this being the only reason I changed brands. I drink a lot of water and try a coffee, before considering how and when I will travel back to China Mainland today? I already know the alternative ferry to Shunde Port is fully booked because of the Buddha’s Birthday, so it really is the long trek via KTR and Lo Wu to catch a coach = ‘thrilling, not’. I head-off around 10 am so as to miss the lunchtime rush, and things go pretty well. I make it through Lo Wu Customs in Shenzhen just before midday, and the coach I need to catch is waiting to pull out. Everything is going well until the skies open and an accident delays us for an hour. Still, I make Foshan around 3.30, and by 4pm am on the local bus to Gaogong. I arrive at 4.50, which means it is too late in the day to make the Police office and register. Therefore I get off the coach at a mini-mart I have not tried before, and buy a couple of items and food for Be Loi. I consider visiting the wet market before deciding that it is time I was home again and seeing to my little girl (Canine version). The ferry is on the other shore as usual, so I walk to a local shop near the main road and buy a couple of the largest size Chinese holdalls. I probably don’t need them, but they will always come in useful and are there ready if needs be. I add a bottle of orange juice as I am still dehydrated from last nights events, and finish it before reaching the ferry.


The walk from the ferry to my home is fine, even though my pack is quite heavy. The air is clean and fresh, and it is not raining for a change! I get my keys ready just before announcing my arrival to a sleeping Be Loi – and she is cocker-hoop to see me. Ahhh! It’s good to be home. I won’t bore you with minuté but simply add that normal things happened as you would imagine…


After a sound sleep we both awaken around 6.30 am. This would be Saturday 22nd May 2010 then. I get into serious packing mode after checking emails and the like. Be Loi is helpful in a young dog sort of way, and is very made-up when I give her Pedigree and biscuits bought in Hong Kong! There does appear to be a difference which she enjoys immensely – so much so I give her a second bowl full which also disappears post-haste. Blimey! I think to call Siu Ying and confirm our timetable of coming events, just as she rings me. It appears our new Landlady is fine with our plans, and we will sign contracts upon arrival and moving in. This is scheduled for tomorrow, weather permitting? Ending the call I consider the immanent changes to our small lives, and where Be Loi fits into high-rise life in a new and unfamiliar city. I better come back to that one, as it remains my main and only worry about this move.


Saturn’s Day turns out to be a bit odd, as whilst I work and Be Loi does her doggy girl stuff; both of us have realised there is an elephant in the corner of the room that isn’t going away! Meanwhile I have just about consolidated all the packing to the front door, with the option open to move on Monday remaining open and hassle-free. Here is an insight: When I Chinese person says “we will move house tomorrow if the weather is ok”, this implies there is a very good chance that the weather will not be ok. Understood? Therefore I need to hedge my bets and keep things a little open today.


The evening and the morning become the next day, and again we are both awake early. I look outside and give Be Loi some more Hong Kong doggy food, which she really loves. Then the heavens open and it is only 7am by now. If we were moving today, then my wife would be in gear and in truck around 9am, and this is not happening. Sure enough, at 8am she calls to say we will do this tomorrow. We reset things with the new Landlady, and everything is fine. The fridge is definitely staying, but needs emptying first thing tomorrow – not that there’s much in it that will deteriorate. There is one packet of opened and re-sealed ground coffee, but fortunately I had managed to stop Siu Ying putting Nescafe 3-in-1 ready-mix in there. It was a small battle, as she was convinced all types of coffee need to be stored in the refrigerator. I already moved the washer, so continue to refine and pack what little is left. I will leave some eggs and the Calor gas water heater, even though we will need to buy a new one in Toisan. The complications of removing it, only for Uncle to have to buy another to replace it simply do not make sense.  This day proves to be even odder than its predecessor, and we finally get to bed around … something am?


Moving On


I am awakened by the ringing of my phone, and clock the time is a little after 7am. Yesterday I was wide awake and ready for action at this time. Unfortunately today I am asleep and feeling groggy. For some inexplicable reason my wife has decided to speak Toisanwah to me today, a language I am still baffled by. I do pick up the mention of 90 minutes, and infer this means she is leaving in 90 minutes. I work to this schedule, and go and play with the computer for an hour. I still have to pack the pc, monitor, a few sundries like wireless modem, and the like + a little bit of stuff in the kitchen. Everything else is already sorted, so I reason it is 10 minutes work = half an hour or so. Nonplussed I reply to emails and get ready to switch off and start work.


This would be about the time when a large blue truck appears outside my gate and it honks its horn…


I immediately look out of the window and Siu Ying waves to me. I guess that means that from her phonecall – she will be here in 90 minutes then! Shit! I am not ready at all, and still cannot fathom why she didn’t say something simple to me in normal Cantonese. Hey-Ho – let’s go with this.


I am met at the door by Ricky Rocket the Removal Man, who immediately proceeds to pick up boxes and throw them in the back of the truck. Meanwhile I head outside to greet my wife – who is off chasing Be Loi. What theatrics they enjoy before returning home and getting involved … both of them! I give Siu Ying a kiss, a roll of extra large Sellotape, a knife, and point her to the immediately open and unpacked things downstairs. Fortunately Mr. Big Boss, who is the driver of the truck, calls a luncheon break. Suits us fine as I head upstairs to turn off the computer and pack all its component pieces. Completing my work very quickly, I head downstairs with the last of the small boxes to find Siu Ying setting about the refrigerator – good girl. I think she is quite impressed with my work although fails to mention the fact. I Sellotape a couple more boxes and then Ricky Rocket reappears. I am concerned he has not been briefed on everything that is to be taken, as is confirmed when I carry out our Calor gas cylinder. The truck is nicely full already with only a few items left to go. However I call a halt and show Ricky upstairs, where a couple of large boxes and two desks are waiting. He immediately grasps the problem and returning downstairs with some stuff, he then informs the Big Boss, who starts re-organising the already packed good.


This buys us a few minutes and returning inside I notice Siu Ying has finished with the fridge and is now checking everything else. I finish preparing Be Loi’s food, as Uncle is not due here until tomorrow sometime. I also replenish her water and lay out a couple of doggy chews for her to find. Meanwhile Siu Ying has found a couple of pillows and some rags. I show her the two holdalls I bought on Friday, and one is soon filled and taken to the truck. See, I knew they would come in useful! The truck has gone to turn round somewhere down the lane, so we complete moving everything outside the gate ready for its return. Be Loi has gone missing! The truck reappears and everything is loaded. Just as I begin to worry, Be Loi rocks up as if nothing had happened, so we close the gate with her inside, and lock-up the house for the final time. It’s a bit chaotic really, and we are off before we know it, with Be Loi left on guard.


Please note that the Elephant is still in the corner of the room, and I discuss with Siu Ying on several occasions if she is going or not? Technically Be Loi is her dog, not mine. Each time she replies that it is up to me. Thanks! Over the preceding months we have talked about this quite a lot, without total resolution. Siu Ying’s first suggestion was to take her to live with ‘An Auntie’ at her Mother’s village. At first this appealed to us both, as she would have a similar lifestyle to her present one, and we would still see her often. However, over the last year I did notice that all the fully-grown young dogs had disappeared, with only a couple of old ones still remaining. The area is well known for eating dog, and I could not take the risk – especially as ‘The Auntie’ always remained some indefinite person? Eventually I cancelled this idea, and the follow-up was she return to the restaurant she came from, which is also not an option. There were a couple of other ideas, non of which we thought were any good – so it comes down to only two: she moves with us to Toisan; or remains and is looked after by Uncle when he moves in. She knows Uncle and likes him, plus with him bringing his own puppy things in her life should remain quite stable. As we are locking up I ask Siu Ying a final time, and she says Be Loi stays, and so it come to pass. I am not happy with this all the same, and would prefer her to come with us, but apartment city life is total culture shock for a dog that is used to roaming free in the countryside. She has absolutely no idea what traffic is for a start and would probably get run over, unless I can train her to the lead – but then, that in itself is a new way of life and not one she has ever experienced.


So the gate closes and I expect Uncle to open it tomorrow and start moving his own belongings in quite soon. I say goodbye to this dog and wish her well, then climb aboard and we head off to the ferry, which is due shortly, and our new life in Toisan.



It was my original intention to write the whole of our moving experience in one go this time, but this has already become one of my longest missives. Therefore I have decided to break the story here, which will continue in the next missive entitled ‘Toisan Times’.


Thank you